Monday 28 January 2013

Redesigned Hebrew Alef-bet workbook

A revised version of my alef-bet workbook is here.  This is comprehensive in the sense that a beginner of up to 6 years in the language will still learn something from working with it, but it is also a simple coloring and drawing workbook with songs.

Please feel free to correct any typos you see - and let me know.

Sunday 27 January 2013

Back at Sunday school today

As noted here I taught four classes the Shema - a few minutes in each class at a suitable break.

Thursday 24 January 2013

Julliard - the value of music

Here's a good read (HT Simon) - John Adams for the Julliard School's 106th Commencement Ceremony.  It is worth the effort - more than 7.2 seconds required.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Eh What's up Doc?

I have been very lax since the November carnival at reading much that comes across my desk. Occasionally I read the bridge column but other blog posts - most of them 95% haven't caught my attention. But this one does - AKMA's Disseminary - a brilliant post.

I am sure there are others - a few where I have commented (or tried to without success - many comments are spam - but not mine!).

Maybe I will start reading again.  For those of you who know I have cancer, I have reached the radiation stage - Feb 4 to March 27 is my schedule where they will really try and Kill the Cancer (as Elmer Fudd might say Kill de Wabbit).

A book for discovering things

I have revisted a presentation I did 18 months ago to introduce my book project to Uvic. At the time, I had a first draft of the approach I was going to take. The revised presentation is available as pdf here if you are interested.

While I was doing this, I discovered something. I already point out that all of the Acrostics follow a Psalm of significance and act as celebratory markers.

Psalm 8 (9-10); Psalm 24 (25); Psalm 33 (34); Psalm 36 (37)
Psalm 110 (111-112); Psalm 118 (119); Psalm 144 (145)

But look at that surprising relationship: And tell me - what is the relationship I am pointing out - why are Psalms 8 and 144 related and why are Psalms 36 and 110 related? The relationship is unique to the pair in both cases. And this pairing is a chiasm X. (See the presentation for a hint on the Acrostics slide.)

I wonder if one combines this high-wire relationship with the repeated psalms (14-53, 40-70, 57+60 = 108) whether one could not imagine these somehow holding like tent poles the whole structure of the Psalter.

Also I wonder: does this imply a relationship between 118 and 24+33?  What might that be?  24 and 118 have a clear link through open / door - gate.

33 and 118 share 34 roots accounting for 172 of 359 words (close to 1/2).

Here is a very constrained set - hard to reduce them and still see the results. (I even omitted חסד!)
Selected words occurring in each of psalms -33,118

Word and gloss * first usage12345678910123456789VsStem
רננו shout for joy
צדיקים righteous ones
הודו give thanks
דבר the word of
מעשׂהו he makes
צדקה righteousness
בדבר in the word of
נעשׂו are made
נתן giving
ייראו will fear
גוים the nations
הגוי the nation
האדם human
מעשׂיהם their deeds
נושׁע victorious
חיל force
לתשׁועה in victory
חיל force
עין the eye of
יראיו those who fear him
ממות from death
ולחיותם and to keep them alive
עזרנו our help
ישׂמח will be glad
בשׁם in name
בטחנו we have trusted
הודו give thanks
יראי those who fear
אירא I will fear
יעשׂה will do
אדם an earthling
בעזרי with those helping me
מבטח over trusting
באדם in an earthling
מבטח over trusting
גוים nations
בשׁם in the name of
בשׁם in the name of
כדבורים like a swarm of bees
בשׁם in the name of
עזרני has helped me
לישׁועה salvation
רנה a shout of joy
וישׁועה and salvation
צדיקים righteous ones
עשׂה making
חיל weal
עשׂה making
חיל weal
אמות I will die
אחיה I will live
מעשׂי the deeds of
ולמות but over to death
נתנני did he give me
צדק righteousness
אודה I will give thanks to
צדיקים righteous ones
אודך I will thank you
לישׁועה salvation
בעינינו in our eyes
עשׂה made
ונשׂמחה and be glad
הושׁיעה you save
בשׁם in the name of
ואודך I will thank you
הודו give thanks

24 and 118 share 17 roots accounting for 94 of 287 words (close to 1/3).
Here are the significant ones - slightly less constrained.
Selected words occurring in each of psalms -24,118

Word and gloss * first usage12345678910VsStem
ברכה a blessing
וצדקה and righteousness
ישׁעו his salvation
פניך your face
שׁערים gates
* ראשׁיכם your heads
* פתחי doors
עולם everlasting
* ויבוא and will come in
עזוז strong
שׁערים gates
* ראשׁיכם your heads
* פתחי doors
עולם everlasting
* ויבא and will come in
לעולם is forever
לעולם is forever
לעולם is forever
לעולם is forever
עזי my strength
לישׁועה salvation
וישׁועה and salvation
פתחו open
שׁערי the gates of
צדק righteousness
אבא I will go
השׁער the gate of
יבאו will go
לישׁועה salvation
לראשׁ the head of
פנה the corner
הושׁיעה you save
ברוך blessed is
הבא the one coming
ברכנוכם we have blessed you
לעולם is forever

24 and 33 share 24 roots 90 / 250 - slightly over a third.

Saturday 19 January 2013

Interesting post on unity

Rabbi Ari Saks is a recently ordained rabbi from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. I  left this comment on his post but it disappeared.

The post is about an African priest visiting his Synagogue. R Saks then recalls a time davening in "my favorite little synagogue called Va'ani T'fillah (And I am Prayer)"

The phrase 'but I, I am a prayer' is in Psalm 109 v4. I was glad to see it out of context. In context, this is a very significant Psalm  for Judaism (preceding 110 and its two acrostics following).  In it, the elect, expressed in the first person singular (i.e. at unity) is persecuted and prays the most severe polemic on his persecutors.  From my pending book on the psalms (in Hebrew and English)
But I, I am a prayer (verse 4). How can יהוה be silent when the mouth of deceit and crime is so open? The cursing in this psalm seems worse than Psalm 137. But the promise of oil alleviates the blast of curses. The vetting of this barrage of curses works itself to grace (28a). The psalm ends with mouth – praise, as it began, and יהוה has not said a word. But read on. A response is imminent.
The following Psalm 110, an oracle, then outlines the wounding (מחץ) of the head - as if the elect is wounded on behalf of all.

Psalms 111-112 (as is the role of all acrostics) celebrates the prior psalm (110). Compare Psalm 36 (oracle) and 37 (acrostic).

I was moved by his post because the Shema implies that we must find that unity. Paul appeals to this unity in Romans. We know how difficult this is even within our own traditions.

Dealing with de troubles of de world

Beloved, I will put before you a perplexity. It is I hope likely that it will not be completely comprehensible. Are we to be ruled by silver? Whether paid as tribute or demanded as protection money. Protection money today, is what we call insurance.

I was pondering the obscure thought behind Psalm 68 Hebrew verse 31, one of many thoughts that are embedded in my book.  Studying the Psalter builds confidence continually.

גְּעַר חַיַּת קָנֶה
עֲדַת אַבִּירִים בְּעֶגְלֵי עַמִּים
מִתְרַפֵּס בְּרַצֵּי כָסֶף
בִּזַּר עַמִּים קְרָבוֹת יֶחְפָּצוּ
rebuke the animal of the purchase [see note below]
the testimony of the mighty with the calves of the peoples
submitting themselves in bits of silver
he will dispel peoples delighting in close combat

What has it to do with us today? attacking kings ride away; (verse 13) vulnerable women publish the good news; (verse 12) so why should the church fear a potential army of litigators? The litigators have already had their teeth and claws into her.

rebuke the animal of the purchase. This could be as obscure as the animal of the reed or the company of spearmen. The root suggests to me a connection to purchase as in getting an inheritance or a wife (Ruth 4). The remainder of the verse lends itself to an economic interpretation. (See also Psalm 74.) The animal of the reed might suggest an economic metaphor regarding treaty arrangements with Egypt. The confusion of economics with love is a common problem in the management of human relations. (Note the reference to the same root in Song 4:14, translated as the name of a spice: calamus.)

So the churches today are engaged, all of them I suspect, in self-protection. Leaders and volunteers alike are threatened with withdrawal of licenses and closure of churches - not because of too few parishioners, but because of money fears related to human scandals thereby forcing the institution into policy directives: get your people to sign this by [insert deadline] or else. What does this reveal but that the churches fail to know their God.

From the abuses of the 50s to the scandals over the next 62 years (I was born there 5 years earlier just in time - and it is not the Holy City), the church (indeed society - teachers, music, sports, and dance organizations - anywhere that requires trust and teaching and is open to the distortion of love - indeed even outside of our cultures in families where the will to power of the stronger is imposed on the weaker) - but I say again: the churches have failed while delivering the message of salvation. [The message is there, but the vehicle sputters along.] And the imposed hierarchy is part of the problem. It is now the world in the church. And so the church is ruled by the world and its desires rather than by her Lord. [This is not significantly different from the machinations of the governments of Israel and Judah and the correction delivered by prophetic word.]

Worship is out of this world and yet is present to us. The liturgical drama draws us out of sin and reminds us of the ransom paid that the human by itself cannot pay (Psalm 49) and more: the drama represents us in that act of redemption - us remembering that we are present at the Exodus; - we ourselves exit from the narrow straits of our lives into a spacious place, a promised land. Admittedly there are some wild places and a few enemies, even the possibility of exile. But the joy of the redeemed even in solitude (Psalm 3) is immeasurable and unspeakable. It cannot be controlled by hierarchy nor is it taken away by any human force, doctrinal, or administrative. But why is it not taught and effected through the churches rather than in spite of their example?

Well - I will pass away from fearful Jerusalem, from that small hill and move back to the psalm of joy, Psalm 63, the psalm of the foxes, just prior to the harvest sequence (65-67).

Here are the last three verses
וְהֵמָּה לְשׁוֹאָה יְבַקְשׁוּ נַפְשִׁי
יָבֹאוּ בְּתַחְתִּיּוֹת הָאָרֶץ
and they of ruin who seek my being
let them go to the nethermost parts of the earth
יַגִּירֻהוּ עַל יְדֵי חָרֶב
מְנָת שֻׁעָלִים יִהְיוּ
they will be spilled by the hand of a sword
a portion of foxes they will be
וְהַמֶּלֶךְ יִשְׂמַח בֵּאלֹהִים
יִתְהַלֵּל כָּל הַנִּשְׁבָּע בּוֹ
כִּי יִסָּכֵר פִּי דוֹבְרֵי שָׁקֶר
but the king will be glad in God
everyone swearing by him will praise
for the mouth of those speaking falsehood will be stopped
You might want to read this next bit carefully. It is an excursus from the heart of the book.

What is the portion of foxes? We begin with Song 2:15:
Catch the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, 
for our vineyards are in flower. 

What have foxes to do with the Song? The word occurs seven times in the Hebrew Scripture. The vineyard in the Song is the place where the lovers live and work. One may be forced to keep the vineyards of others and not able to keep one’s own (Song 1 v6). The Beloved is like a vineyard (Song 1 v14). The foxes spoil the vineyard, the place of love (Song 7 v12). Spoil has also the sense of ownership as if the vineyards were taken in pledge. One may have many such vineyards but in the end it is:
 My vineyard that is mine is facing me. (Song 8 v11,12) 

Vineyard is a frame for the whole poem. How then will I tend it? Psalm 63 gives us an answer to that question. From the diligence of the seeking early to the recognition of foxes. While the enemies of Israel are round about, and can be interpreted as foxes, the troubles of a life are closer than geography. In the Song, the foxes (shu`alim) occur twice in one verse and the Shulamite twice in one verse. This too can be seen as a frame for the poem around the word of peace (shalom). The beloved herself must learn to care for her own vineyard and must not be like a fox.

Twice only is fox referred to in the NT, the king Herod is such (Luke 13:32) and the foxes are said to have holes while the son of man has nowhere to lay his head (Luke 9:58, Matthew 8:20). The reading of the foxes as political enemies around Israel requires the reading of Israel as the beloved of the Song. How is the vineyard of the son of man to be kept from the fox?
And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, 
Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and tomorrow, 
and the third [day] I shall be perfected. 

The perfection achieved is sufficient to the task of catching the foxes (or perhaps the less cute and more historically accurate jackals) and bringing them to peace (shalom). Therefore let it be that one read the Song both individually and corporately, both as a love song of the time and as a love song for the present, both as a song of the Beloved for his people then (Isaiah 5:1) and for the 24 elders who sing the new song now and in the time to come (Revelation 5:9). But let it be that nothing be lacking.

The fox is one who brings trouble to the lovers. The trouble cannot be sufficient to destroy love. For Love is strong as death, jealousy hard as Sheol, its coals are coals of the flaming fire of יָה (Song 8 v6). The grave is overcome by the one who gave his life for the life of the world. So the foxes are caught in order that the Shulamite might learn to lean on her Beloved and not on her own strength, nor even on the forceful orders of her brothers.
Daughters of Jerusalem, 
this is my beloved and this is my companion, 
he is all sweetness (Song 5 v16 paraphrased). 

How can we possibly introduce this wonder to the next generation? How is it that God should entrust the gift to such a insubstantial container. For the very young introduce letter and word games. For the youth who is certain, goads and puzzles: how does 7 fit into 1? (See George Herbert’s poem, Easter, I got me flowers, and Genesis 2:4.) For the ancient jade who missed out on being young or certain, an invitation to a slight madness and some of the same lessons that the very young can take, like the repeated use of כִּי טוֹב reflecting Genesis 1 and the goodness of creation.

But what of the leader and the hierarchy and the encrusted self-interest of the establishment ruled by silver and fearful responsibility?

Self-protection has no part in the Song. Nor is there a hierarchy. The commandment is to Catch the foxes. That will require subtlety. It has, by the way, nothing to do with catching 'offenders'. Don't slip back into an old way of thinking. It has to do with that unspeakable redemption - again in the psalms, Psalm 32, but it may require a little shame, a little sojourn in the nethermost parts of the earth.
לְדָוִד מַשְׂכִּיל
אַשְׁרֵי נְשׂוּי פֶּשַׁע
כְּסוּי חֲטָאָה
Of David, an insight
happy transgression borne away
sin covered
אַשְׁרֵי אָדָם
לֹא יַחְשֹׁב יְהוָה לוֹ עָוֹן
וְאֵין בְּרוּחוֹ רְמִיָּה
happy the human
to whom יהוה will not reckon iniquity
and without deceit in his spirit
I told you - you might not understand this. But understanding is stasis compared to walking with balance and being known in doing the right thing. What is the right thing? Let your yes be yes and your no, no. And Little children, stay away from idols. And learn from the One who teaches humanity knowledge.

Bob, what brought this on?

Let's see if the armies of Sennacherib withdraw. I have more an approach to a problem space than a set of answers. But when someone else's approach to a problem space results in coercive behaviour, I think the authority has lost its moorings. This goes for anyone in a position of authority, business leader, political leader, or bishop.  The conclusion I am under is that violence and the will to power are at best under limited control through policy. The Gospel is transformation and wholeness, power and self-control. And even the limited control of policy must engage the body to which it is delivered and cannot be applied through coercion. The Torah is to be loved.

Thursday 17 January 2013

Collecting blurbs for the dust cover

from Johannes Kepler's book called Harmony of the Worlds, Dr. Paul Teel whose PhD is in the Philosophy of Science and who teaches Mathematics and Christian Living at Pacific Christian School in Victoria writes to me: I am sure there are times you have felt as he does here:
I feel carried away and possessed by an unutterable rapture over the divine spectacle of the heavenly harmony. 
Indeed, I give myself up to sacred frenzy. I sneeringly defy mortals by the following public avowal: I have plundered the golden vessels of the Egyptians, in order to furnish a sacred tabernacle for my God out of them far from the borders of Egypt. If you pardon me, I am happy. If you are angry with me, I bear it. 
I am writing a book for my contemporaries or — it does not matter — for posterity. It may be that my book will wait for a hundred years for a reader. Has not God waited 6000 years for an observer?
So Paul then writes of my book Seeing the Psalter:
When Johannes Kepler discovered the laws of planetary motion, he wrote that God had waited 6000 years for an observer. We can be thankful that the authors of the Psalms didn’t have to wait nearly as long for Bob MacDonald. He has somehow managed to combine the poet’s love of words with the mathematician’s love of structure. While his analysis of the psalms allows us to see (quite literally) their organization and focus, his careful, low-punctuation translation draws us into the life-giving art of these sometimes difficult but always beautiful poems.
Book is now shipping. If interested in Victoria - let me know at my stenagmois gmail acct. 

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Monday 14 January 2013

On death

I think I am going to learn to sing again. In the face of all the death I have been reminded of these first 2 weeks of the year, I think a little effort - physical effort - should be put into singing. So today (now yesterday) I have had to learn this for evensong in a few hours.

 Evensong is now over but remember daffodils by Herrick

Fair Daffodils, we weep to see
  You haste away so soon;
As yet the early-rising sun
  Has not attain'd his noon.
   Stay, stay,
 Until the hasting day
  Has run
   But to the even-song;
And, having pray'd together, we
Will go with you along.

We have short time to stay, as you,
 We have as short a spring;
As quick a growth to meet decay,
 As you, or anything.
  We die
 As your hours do, and dry
   Like to the summer's rain;
Or as the pearls of morning's dew,
Ne'er to be found again.

Flowers die too, haste away, sometimes too soon, and get tangled with weeds. In the midst of prodigious even wanton prodigality,  room - no room - too much room, from desert to crowded gardens. Here is a performance of the Britten flower songs, Daffodils leading...

Saturday 12 January 2013

Abraham, and ascension

James Tabor has a post seconded by Jim Davila.

For some reason, my comment did not 'take'. Lots of blogs don't accept my comments. Some kind of plague on IP addresses in the Pacific North West.

Here it is:

Surely this post and its many comments takes more study than I have given it. But in all these notes and comments on that page, there is no mention of sacrifice.

Ascend / burnt offering / and leaf are the same letters. They are homonyms in Hebrew. What is given to God (burnt offering, Psalms 20, 40, 50, 51, 66) is accepted by God (ascension, Psalm 47, 68, the Psalms of Ascent) and does not wither (the leaf of Psalm 1). This mixed image takes in all sacrifice from Abraham to Jesus. The 'proof texts' of this are in the structural role of Abraham in the Psalter - Psalm 47 - God is gone up, and Psalm 105 where Abraham frames the whole Psalm.  It is worthwhile studying the psalms. They undermine the commonplace.

You will find in my book a sufficient scoring of the knobbled skin of the Psalter to enable you to imbibe, a sip at a time, of its inebriating liquors.

Thursday 10 January 2013

Wee Chong Tan

our beloved Dr. Tan passed away due to renal failure, this afternoon at 4:03 pm. His passing was peaceful. Singers from All Saints of Alaska Orthodox Church choir were here in his home, singing the hymns of the church, and during the Cherubic Hymn, at the line "now lay aside all earthly cares," Dr. Tan breathed his last.

Who - whoo? said the wise owl

Messin' about with a 'nother subject I don't usually comment on - but James McGrath posted this nice interview with George Lucas - and I thought a bit about Lucas's subtle shape-shifting comments and this jumped into my mind and dripped from my fingers.
Lucas writes: "Evolution is a product of intelligent design" - that's a good one. We know what 'is a product of' is right? And we know 'intelligent' (O yeah). And we can distinguish 'design' from accident - maybe. And 'evolution' - mindless shape-shifting through origami - this is intelligent? - able to predict / able to remember? 
Is Lucas, I wonder, a bit too close to the God of the Gaps? 'Everything we don't know is "intelligent design." Everything we do know is science.' (It's a good shape-shifting answer.) 
Even that word 'know' is too hard for us. But we have the knowledge of good and evil - so let's get with the Gospel: justice and equity for the poor and the marginalized. Judgment to shame for the exploiters and the oligarchs and the men of violence.
Justice without violence? This is sense.
Noise without atmosphere? Big bang? Non-sense. 
I am a 67 year old holograph with 24D Branes manipulating my strings by field formations that I cannot see - being only a three-D critter with inference for prediction and fading memory.
Critter? Who critted me? Them branes, - them branes, them wet branes.
Do you see how the knowledge of good and evil is then Gospel! Since we know it - we can do something about it. We can do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with yr nD-Brane. (Micah 6:8)

Wednesday 9 January 2013

In Memoriam

It was with great sadness that I read while on holidays Jan 3, 2013 of the death of a young man Dec 31, 2012. I did not know Mack, but I have had conversations with his father, Christian Brady.

Today would have been the 59th birthday of  my youngest sister, Janet. 50 years ago this year, she succumbed to childhood diabetes at age 9.  I cannot imagine my parents grief. It is not easy to say what I felt as a teen in those years, though it did affect my University year since I spent little time in class and instead read to my sister in the hospital. I even wrote some music for her funeral. In another day, even in another circumstance, she might have lived. This is a constant theme that I must forget. But clearly, I haven't.